Laboratory Housekeeping-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Laboratory Housekeeping

Housekeeping-related problems are one of the top causes of laboratory accidents:  Bench-tops that are too crowded often cause chemicals or equipment to fall and break while someone is trying to find a clean spot to place other things.  People trip and fall because aisles are crowded with stored materials and equipment.  Serious accidents may become worse and responses delayed because eyewashes, safety showers or fire extinguishers are blocked.

A well-maintained laboratory provides a very favorable impression on outside auditors as well as with possibly influential visitors.  It shows that the people in the laboratory care about the health and safety aspects of their workspace and that this is a priority for them.  Safety culture is typically one of the primary things that the auditors and visitors are trying monitor as they check out a lab.  EPA Auditors have told us at our conferences that they often can sum up a laboratory’s commitment to good safety in the few moments it takes to look over the housekeeping of the lab!  If things look bad, they will be more inclined to look deeper for problems!

Look over the following list of common housekeeping problems.  Correct them if they appear in your laboratory.  Please contact me (8-8182) if you need any assistance from EH&S.

1.    Stored items are blocking aisles and often exit routes as well
2.    Chemical and reagent containers are left throughout the lab instead of being returned to their proper storage areas.  (This greatly increased the chances of a chemical spill.)
3.    Unlabeled chemicals in containers or in beakers/flasks are present in the laboratory.  These materials have a way of never being removed properly, since they often cannot be identified as to whether they should be saved or not.
4.    The lab is very dirty; surfaces have not been cleaned in some time; there is evidence of old spills or leaks of chemicals (especially around balances, and in sinks and fume hoods).
5.    Safety equipment is blocked.  This includes storage underneath safety showers and blocking of eyewashes and fire extinguishers.  THIS IS A VERY COMMON PROBLEM!
6.    There is insufficient room to work on bench tops and in fume hoods.  This is generally due to excessive storage of glassware, books, notebooks, apparati, etc., that should be placed elsewhere.
7.    Sinks are filled with used glassware or otherwise used for storage.
8.    Cords, electrical and otherwise, block aisles and/or doorways, creating tripping hazards in the laboratory.
9.    Boxes, books and equipment are precariously stored wherever a surface is found open.

After the initial problems are corrected, most people find it very easy to take a few minutes at the end of a day to properly put away the materials they have used and do a quick clean-up, helping to maintain the good housekeeping in the laboratory.

By: Mark Banister, markb2@andrew.cmu.edu, 412-268-1493